Village of Cary accepts $500,000 donation for community plaza, police drone

The donation from the Community Foundation of McHenry County will also go toward new village entryway signs, pavilion at Cary Rotary Park

Downtown Cary is pictured here in 2020.

A $500,000 donation given to the village of Cary will be used for a new community plaza, a drone for the police department, new village entry signs and the construction of a pavilion at Cary Rotary Park.

This donation was accepted unanimously by the Cary Village Board at its Tuesday meeting. It was given to the village through the Community Foundation for McHenry County and made possible by residents Greg and Dana Gliniecki.

“I get choked up even thinking about the sincere generosity of a donation of this magnitude,” Cary Mayor Mark Kownick said. “I am beyond overjoyed. ... The village of Cary is exceedingly thankful for this donation.”

One of the projects the donation is earmarked for is a new community plaza at the former Metra Depot site and was included in the village’s downtown strategic plan.

Cary staff has done a lot of work in the background planning for the site, which they see as a future gathering space within the village’s downtown, Village Administrator Jake Rife said.

Plans for the plaza include seating, bike facilities, a pavilion space and potentially a fireplace element, he said.

“It’s going to become a very nice plaza for our residents,” Kownick said.

Cary’s Village Board has been wanting to invest dollars into the downtown area for a while to make it a place where people are excited to go, Rife said. Particularly, public gathering spaces have been something residents have expressed interest in, he said.

Construction on the plaza; village entryway signs, which will help define the border between Cary and other communities; and the pavilion are scheduled for next budget year, the village said in a news release, while the police department drone is expected to be purchased this budget year.

“[The drone] is going to help in our policing and not only that [but also] with various community events,” Kownick said at the meeting.

A drone has been something that the Cary Police Department has considered in the past, Rife said.

“This is a drone that will have many different uses,” Rife said, including crash investigations and to help find missing people.

The fire department also would be able to use it, Rife said.

In a statement Kownick said that the village is grateful for the Glinieckis’ “tremendous” generosity and that it is “truly humbling” to receive such an “incredible gift and to know that the Glinieckis believe in the village’s vision.”

“The generosity of the Glinieckis will improve the lives of current residents of Cary, their children and grandchildren,” Community Foundation Executive Director Deborah Thielen said in a statement. “We are honored to work alongside the village and eager to watch their five-year plan unfold before our eyes.”

This is not the first time the Community Foundation has facilitated a donation to the Cary Village Board, although its last attempt was unsuccessful.

In 2018, a wealthy Cary couple offered $60,000 to the village but asked to remain anonymous. This sparked debate in the community and stoked infighting on the Village Board, the Northwest Herald reported at the time. Kownick ultimately returned the money after the board rejected the offer.

In light of that situation, the Cary Village Board approved an ordinance later that year to establish a formal process for accepting donations. Along with asking all donations be made in cash or real or personal property, the ordinance states that the village reserves the right to decline a donation if it is determined “in the sole discretion of the village” to not be in the village’s best interests.